Head coach Steve Hansen has named his final 31 man New Zealand Rugby World Cup Squad. New Zealand will kick off their campaign on the 21st of September in a clash of the giants versus South Africa. This will be a date that all neutrals will want to have marked down on their calendar, as the Pool B opening fixture can be counted on to live up to any and all hype following the last few meetings between these two sides.
Hansen has had to make some tough choices with regard to his final squad selection for the World Cup. New Zealand became the first side in history to retain the World Cup in 2015, and they will be going to Japan with the goal of cementing themselves even more firmly in the history books, by bringing home their 3rd consecutive World Cup. The veterans of the New Zealand set-up have valuable experience to bring to the squad following the unprecedented success which they have achieved. However, only three members of Hansen’s squad will be in contention to win their 3rd World Cup.
Simon Whitelock, Sonny Bill Williams and team captain Kieran Read are the only three players who have made their third consecutive World Cup team. Veteran prop Owen Franks is the most glaring absentee from the New Zealand squad for many. Franks had become a staple of the New Zealand squad over the past decade, accumulating 108 caps in this time. Hansen has leaned towards the side of youth over experience on this occasion however. Atu Moli and Angus Ta’avao, who have only got 7 caps between them, have been given the nod instead. These selections are an example of New Zealand putting game plan ahead of sentimentality. Hansen’s tactics look to be heavily reliant on the athleticism that these two can offer more than Franks, and he has not been afraid to be ruthless in his selection.
Liam Squire and Ngani Laumape are other notable omissions from New Zealand’s fresh looking World Cup squad. One uncertainty who has been included in the squad however, is Brodie Retallick. Retallick is currently recovering from a dislocated shoulder and looks unlikely to feature at all in the Pool stage for the All-Blacks. Hansen, however, is happy to take Retallick under the reasonable assumption that they will progress beyond the pool stage. A fresh, fit Retallick will be a worry for New Zealand’s Quarter-final opponents.
Hansen has had to take some gambles and make some tough decisions in his selection process for the World Cup. However, the All-Blacks ruthlessness shows why they are the most successful side in World Cup history. Hansen will hope his risks pay off in this year’s tournament. New Zealand will have no easy start with championship contenders South Africa awaiting them for their opening fixture. We will quickly have a good idea of how calculated Hansen’s risks turn out to be on September 21st.
Here is New Zealand’s squad for the 2019 World Cup in full:
Backs: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, Ben Smith
Forwards: Dane Coles, Liam Coltman, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Angus Ta’avao, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane, Luke Jacobson, Kieran Read (Captain), Ardie Savea, Matt Todd